Executive Summary

Problems

Principles

Organizational Models

Work of the Committee

Public Electronic Access Systems (PEAS) Committee
Final Report, March 2001

submitted to Cabinet by Chair Ellen Meltzer, March 19, 2001

Executive Summary

A restructuring of our public electronic access systems will have a profound impact on the whole library organization and on the public face of the library. The process we use to redesign access to our electronic systems may change how we can use our time and how we view ourselves. Moving from a complex and confusing public interface to one that is easy to navigate and intuitive to users will take a great deal of work, time and expertise. But such a move will free staff to collaborate with faculty and students at higher levels than they can do now. Unifying the "look and feel" of the U.C. Berkeley Library web pages will offer rich opportunities for us to articulate and emphasize our identity.

In June 2000, University Librarian Gerald Lowell charged the Public Electronic Access Systems (PEAS) Committee to consider all of the Library's public electronic interfaces — including the Library web, GLADIS, electronic reserves, the Sunsite, etc. — and to investigate three areas:

  1. Identify specific public access systems' problems that you feel are causing our users the greatest amount of frustration.
  2. Recommend a set of public electronic access system development principles that will enable the Library to create systems that meet our users' information needs, whether they are for a comprehensive literature search or to find an introductory book on a particular topic.
  3. Investigate organizational models that can be used by the Library to implement and maintain user interfaces and systems that are under our control and that meet your recommended principles.

The full charge can be viewed at peascharge.html. The Committee was encouraged to discuss issues with Roundtable, and asked to submit their final report to Cabinet.

In brainstorming sessions, the Committee identified a number of problems our users face when utilizing our public electronic access systems. These problems group into six major areas:

  • A single interface doesn't serve all levels of users.
  • Users confuse Web and library resources.
  • Our interfaces are not based on user-centered designs.
  • The search process needs to be improved.
  • Search results need to be improved.
  • There is not enough or not the right kind of help.

After identifying these problems, the Committee, and then a subcommittee, created a list of principles to address these problems. The principles were taken to Roundtable, where more suggestions were made, and a final list was created. The principles fall into four groups:

  • User-centered design and development.
  • Interface look and feel.
  • Functionality (both what the system presents and what the user can do).
  • Help.

Finally, the Committee discussed different organizational models to design and maintain our new public electronic access systems. The Committee discussed several different options. The core model is our recommendation that the Library hire a PEAS Manager, who would have an Advisory Council. Additional staff (the number and their skills to be determined by the PEAS Manager) will need to be hired and/or dedicated to this project. We believe that there are three viable reporting lines for the PEAS manager; the Committee prefers Model 1.

  • Model 1: Manager reports to the AUL/Director for Public Services.
  • Model 2: Manager reports to the University Librarian.
  • Model 3: Manager reports to the Head of Systems.

Although there are compelling reasons for choosing one model over another, and any model might succeed, the Committee feels that without strong direction from and accountability to public services, the redesign of our public electronic access systems would not flourish. And while it is particularly appealing to have the PEAS manager report to "the top," it may not be in the best interests of the organization to have this position report to a very busy university librarian with many competing responsibilities. Whatever reporting lines are finally established, the PEAS Manager will need easy access and strong ties to Systems Office skills and resources.

When asked to comment on the final report, Roundtable

  • Emphasized the need for an implementation process that involves significant input from those in the Library who have designed electronic interfaces to meet the needs of their local communities of users.
  • Expressed hope that this project would result in new discovery tools to enhance user productivity.

In addition to the recommendations made above, the Committee believes that for a redesign of our public access systems to be successful, Cabinet needs to:

  1. Move immediately to fill the position of Public Electronic Access Systems Manager.
  2. Fund and hire additional PEAS staff.
  3. Fund consultants; release time required for the PEAS Advisory Council and other staff to participate in planning for a revamp of our current public electronic access systems; and backfilling for involved staff.
  4. Fund new hardware, software, and costs of programming as required to move us to the next version of our public electronic access systems.
  5. Develop, participate in and promote the PEAS principles for the E-Berkeley initiatives. For example, if students have the capability of customizing their own pages, the Library should be part of the planning to consider what resources students have available, and how best to integrate information systems to preserve user-centered design and a Library brand.
  6. Coordinate with the California Digital Library (CDL) developments; plan with CDL initiatives in mind; take advantage of CDL initiatives and resources; and promote our principles in ongoing development of CDL initiatives.

A more detailed report of the work of the Committee appears in Work of the Committee. The Committee looks forward to discussing the final report with Library Cabinet.

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